Page images

legislative duties. The senators in Rome, and the peers in Britain, have proved themselves the firmest pillars in the glorious structure of civil and political liberty.

These senators will, for the first time, be elected by the congress, and their successors in the senate will occupy the principal attention of the government, which will cause them to be educated in a college especially set apart for the instruction of those future guardians and legislators of the country. They will be taught the arts, the sciences, and every thing than can adorn the mind of a public man; from their earliest infancy they will be acquainted with the career destined them by Providence, and from their most tender years their souls will be elevated to the dignity awaiting them.

In no manner whatever would the creation of an hereditary senate be a violation of political equality: it is not a nobility I wish to establish; because that, as has been said by a celebrated republican, would be to destroy at once equality and liberty. It is an office for which candidates ought to be prepared, and is also an office requiring extensive knowledge, and proportionate means for attaining it.

In elections, every thing ought not to be left to chance and hazard; for the public is easier deceived than nature perfected by art; and although it be a fact that these senators will not proceed from the womb of virtue, it is equally true that they will come forth endowed with a most finished education. The liberators of Venezuela are moreover entitled to hold for ever a high rank in the republic which is indebted to them for existence, and I do believe that posterity would observe with regret the extinction of the illustrious names of its first benefactors. I will say further, that it is for the public interest, that it is for the national honour, and that it is due from the gratitude of Venezuela, to preserve in honour to the latest posterity, a race of virtuous, prudent, and valiant men, who, overcoming every obstacle, have established the republic at the expense of the most heroic sacrifices; and if the people of Venezuela do not applaud and rejoice at the elevation of its benefactors, they are unworthy to be free, and never will be so.

An hereditary senate, I say again, will be the fundamental

basis of the legislative power, and consequently the basis of the whole government. It will act equally as a counterpoise to the government and the people, and will be an intermediate authority to deaden the arrows which those perpetual rivals are constantly shooting at each other.

In all contests, the interposition of a third person becomes the means of reconciliation; and thus will the senate of Venezuela be the cement of the delicate edifice so liable to violent concussions. It will be the means of calming the fury and maintaining the harmony betwixt the members and the head of this political body. Nothing can corrupt a legislative body invested with the highest honours; dependent on itself alone, without fearing any thing from the people, or expecting any thing from the government, whose only object is to repress every tendency to evil, and encourage every attempt at good, and which is deeply interested in the existence of a society with which it shares adversity and prosperity.

It has been most justly remarked, that the British house of peers is invaluable to the nation, as forming a bulwark to the liberties of the people; and I dare add, that the senate of Venezuela will not only be a bulwark to liberty, but a help to render the republic perpetual.

The executive power in Great Britain is invested with all the sovereign authority fitted to it; but it is also circumscribed by a triple line of ditches, barriers, and palisades. The sovereign is indeed the head of the government, but his ministers and officers depend more on the laws than on his authority, because they are personally responsible, and from that responsibility not even royal authority can exempt them. He is commander-in-chief of the army and navy, he makes peace and declares war; but it is the parliament alone which votes annually the supplies. For neutralizing his power, the person of the king is inviolable and sacred; whilst his head is left free, his hands are bound. The sovereign of Britain has three formidable rivals: the cabinet, which is responsible to the people and to parliament; the house of peers, which protects the interests of the people, as representing the nobility of which it is composed; and the house of commons, the organ of the British public: as the judges are moreover responsible for the due fulfilment of the laws, they adhere strictly to

them; and the administrators of the public money, being accountable not only for their own violation of duty, but even for what the government may do, guard against misapplication.

The more the nature of the executive power in Britain is examined, the more will you be inclined to think it the most perfect model for either a monarchy, an aristocracy, or a democracy. In Venezuela, let the executive power be exercised by a president, appointed by the people or their representatives, and we shall then have taken a long stride towards national felicity.

Whoever the citizen may be that may fill that situation, he will be supported by the constitution; authorized to do good, he cannot do evil, for, submitting to the laws, his ministers will co-operate with him; and should he, on the contrary, attempt to infringe them, his own ministers will leave him insulated in the midst of the republic, and will even impeach him to the senate. The ministers being responsible for such offences as may be committed, are the persons that govern; and it is not the least advantage of the system, that those more immediately exercising the functions of the executive power take an interesting and active part in the deliberations of the government, and consider their duties as personal.

It may happen that the president may not be a man of great talents or virtues, and notwithstanding the want of those essential qualities, he may still perform the duties of his situation in a satisfactory manner; because, in such case, the ministry, doing every thing itself, bears the burden of the state. However exorbitant the authority of executive power in Great Britain may appear, it would not perhaps be too great in the republic of Venezuela. Here the congress has bound both the hands and heads of the magistrates, and has assumed a portion of the executive functions, contrary to the maxim of Montesquieu, who says, that a representative body ought not to take upon itself any active principle; it ought to make laws, and see those executed which it does make. Nothing is so dangerous to a people as a weak executive; and if it has been deemed necessary to endow it with so many attributes in a monarchy, how infinitely more indispensable would it be in a republic! Let us fix our attention on this difference, and we shall find that the equilibrium of power ought to be distributed in two

ways. In a republic, the executive ought to be the strongest, because every thing conspires against it; and, on the other hand, in a monarchy, the legislative ought to be the most powerful, as every thing unites in favour of the sovereign. The veneration which people bear for a regal magistracy is a proof of its influence in augmenting the superstitious respect paid to that species of authority. The splendour of the throne, crown, and purple, the formidable support given by the nobility, the immense riches acquired by generations of the same dynasty, and the fraternal protection afforded by kings to each other, are considerable advantages militating in favour of royal authority, and render it almost unlimited. Those very advantages are a reason why a republican magistrate should be endowed with greater power than that possessed by a constitutional prince.

A republican magistrate is an insulated individual in the midst of society, intrusted with the duty of curbing the impetus of the people towards licentiousness, and the propensity of judges and administrators to an abuse of the laws. Such a one, with regard to the legislative body, the senate, and the people, is a single individual resisting the combined attack of the opinions, the interests, and the passions of society, which, according to what Carnot says, is constantly striving betwixt the desire of governing and that of not being subject to any authority. He is, in short, one athlete opposed to a multitude of others. The only corrective to such weakness is a vigorous and suitable resistance to the opposition made to the executive power by the legislative body and people of a republic. If the executive do not possess the means of exercising all the authority properly placed at its disposal, it becomes null, and the government expires, leaving anarchy, usurpation, and tyranny, as its heirs and successors.


Let the whole system of government, therefore, be strengthened, and the equilibrium established in such a manner, that it cannot be overturned, nor its refinement become a cause of decay. no form of government is so weak as a democracy, its constitution ought to be as solid as possible, and its institutions conducive to stability. If such be not the case, we may reckon on having only a government on trial, and not a permanent system; and on having a wavering, tumultuous, and anarchical com

munity, and not a social establishment, in which happiness, peace, and justice reign.

Legislators! let us not be presumptuous, but moderate in our pretensions. It is by no means likely that we can do what has never yet been accomplished by any of the human race, what the greatest and wisest nations have never effected. Undefined liberty and absolute democracy are the rocks on which republican hopes and expectations have been wrecked.

Take a view of the republics of antiquity, of those of modern times, and of those rising into existence, and you will find, that almost all have been frustrated in their attempts. The men, who aim at legitimate institutions and social perfection, are undoubtedly deserving of every praise; but who can say that mankind possess complete wisdom, or that they practise all the virtues which the union of power and justice imperatively demand? Angels, and not men, can alone exist free, peaceable, and happy, in the exercise of sovereign power.

Whilst the people of Venezuela exercise the rights they lawfully enjoy, let us moderate the excessive pretensions which an incompetent form of government might suggest, and let us give up that federal system which does not suit us, let us get clear of the triumvirate executive power, and concentre it in one president, and let us commit to him sufficient authority to enable him to resist the inconveniences arising from our recent situation, from the state of warfare we have been suffering under, and from the kind of foreign and domestic enemies we have had to deal with, and with whom we shall still have to contend for a length of time. Let the legislative power resign the attributes belonging to the executive, and acquire nevertheless fresh consistency, and fresh influence in the equilibrium of authority. Let the courts of justice be reformed by the permanency and independence of the judges, by the establishment of juries, and of civil and criminal codes, not dictated by antiquated nor by conquering kings, but by the voice of nature, by the cry of justice, and by the genius of wisdom.

It is my anxious wish that every part of the government and administration should acquire that degree of vigour, which can alone sustain a due equilibrium, not simply amongst the members

« PreviousContinue »